‘ExxonKnew’: More Correction

By Robert Bradley Jr.

From MasterResource

Ed Note: The erroneous, agenda-laden ExxonKnew narrative was again in evidence in last weekend’s WSJ News Exclusive, “Inside Exxon’s Strategy to Downplay Climate Change.” For other rebuttals involving the author, (see here).

“Exxon doesn’t ‘know’ anything. It’s a collection of people and just like any other organization with many people, there are many views and understandings on almost every topic imaginable. I worked with Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and Libertarians.” – Glen Lyons, former employee (below)

A sober look at the “ExxonKnew” campaign reveals an anti-fossil-fuel agenda inspiring a myopic view of the company’s old investigations into carbon dioxide (CO2).

There are many corrections to this leaky narrative. First, note that the company assigned the CO2 studies to individuals with their own personal motivations and did not partake in studies on the offsets to CO2 (from sulfur dioxide) or the benefits of CO2 (plant growth and resiliency, global greening, warmer winters). Or the advantages of fossil fuels over the dilute, intermittent alternative energies.

The problems of the day were different to Exxon (later ExxonMobil). There was scare about global cooling and a new Ice Age. And there was concern about Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas.

Second, note that the studies certainly did not represent the existing views of the company but an expedition into embryonic, unsettled science. James Hansen, the father of the climate alarm (in 1988), stated in 1993:

Climate is always changing. Climate would fluctuate without any change of climate forcings. The chaotic aspect of climate is an innate characteristic of the coupled fundamental equations describing climate system dynamics.

And in 1998:

The forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change.

Gerald North, head of the climatology department at Texas A&M, and a corporate consultant to climate-alarmist Enron (another story), said the same thing in a different way. “There is a good reason for a lack of consensus on the science,” he stated in 1998. “It is simply too early. The problem is difficult, and there are pitifully few ways to test climate models.” The same can be said today.

These points and other are developed in the following posts:

And not surprisingly, continuing takes on Exxon and climate (such as in the Wall Street Journal ‘expose’ focusing on Rex Tillerson) continue to present a narrative way out of context.

Another “ExxonKnew” Take

A far better take than that of the anti-fossil-fuel lobby was provided to the present author by longtime Exxon/Exxon Mobil employee Glen Lyons. He stated (in its entirety).

Here’s my two cents on the general concept of “What Exxon Knew” as a retired employee with more than 36 years of experience there. 

First, Exxon doesn’t “know” anything. It’s a collection of people and just like any other organization with many people, there are many views and understandings on almost every topic imaginable. I worked with Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and Libertarians. 

I worked with people who believed 25 years ago that climate change was a concern and I worked with people who still don’t believe that climate change is a concern. One of the great features about working at ExxonMobil is that it gives employees a fair amount of latitude to think “outside the box” by studying and proposing ideas that their management may not agree with. 

I did plenty of that during my career, and sometimes it was well received by my management and sometimes not. Just because I made a presentation on a particular topic of my choosing doesn’t mean that my management was fully aligned on the front end or after the fact.

One thing is very true about ExxonMobil – the company has a long history of hiring brilliant people who are original and creative thinkers. Sometimes the output of these people finds broad support among management and sometimes it doesn’t. No one who knows ExxonMobil is surprised to learn that some employees were studying the link between CO2 emissions and global temperatures. However, that does NOT mean that his/her management agreed with the findings.

ExxonMobil senior management, while brilliant in their own right, are still people and subject to changing their views on issues as they collect more data. The fact that ExxonMobil’s corporate position has evolved over time shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s a testament to the openness and thoughtfulness of the ExxonMobil culture.

As a career employee, I’m very proud that ExxonMobil has had employees studying CO2 emissions and climate change for years and that they made the papers publicly available to help advance the science.  We should not try to tear down ExxonMobil. We should instead praise it.


Appendix: Legal Peril?

Let a fair judge and jury hear both sides and decide. And let the plaintiffs pay for their own court costs (and note who is paying the bills of the legal strategy in the first place).

The Climate Reality Project, referencing a Guardian article (“Exxon’s predictions about the climate crisis may have increased its legal peril”) stated:

After years of turning a profit off of the world’s suffering, states are taking Exxon-Mobil to court. The discovery of their latest lies is adding even more (fossil) fuel to the fire.


” … After years of turning a profit off of the world’s suffering,”

Huh? James Hansen: “Let’s be clear: the frequent comparison of the fossil fuel and tobacco industries is nonsense. Fossil fuels are a valuable energy source that has done yeomen service for humankind.” – James Hansen, June 1, 2021…

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Pat Frank
September 18, 2023 10:07 pm
Pat Frank
Reply to  Pat Frank
September 18, 2023 10:08 pm

Darn. Also, here (pdf).

Reply to  Pat Frank
September 19, 2023 2:29 am

Its an excellent piece of work!

Reply to  Pat Frank
September 19, 2023 4:48 am

Excellent analytical reconstruction of data, Pat.
I wrote a peer-reviewed paper about year 1977. A lot of time had to be spent on the figures, hand drawn with fine nib and India ink on transparent plastic, some involving tracing. Rescaling an image to a different size could take a day. Youngsters have little understanding of scientific reporting back then before computers were widespread.
Geoff S

September 18, 2023 10:09 pm

“It is simply too early. The problem is difficult, and there are pitifully few ways to test climate models.”

There is one test of climate models… time. Time, since 1998, has shown that the climate models were wrong, and continue to be wrong.

Reply to  MarkH
September 19, 2023 7:28 am

Moreover, beyond the models, there is no scientific proof preponderance-of-evidence that human emissions of CO2 have influenced “global warming” to any significant degree. Just assertions of such.

After all, correlation does not prove causation.

Steve Case
September 18, 2023 10:13 pm

“It is simply too early. The problem is difficult, and there are pitifully few ways to test climate models.” The same can be said today.

No, there wasn’t a problem then, and there isn’t one today. Please stop buying into the bullshit.

Capt Jeff
September 18, 2023 10:54 pm

So they got involved with climate modeling. No wonder there was confusion.

Rod Evans
September 18, 2023 11:50 pm

In any organisation employing over fifty thousand people, you can be sure there is every possible political and philosophical view known to man, contained within the workforce.
On that basis we can be sure Exxon knew all there was to know about most things that matter to normal people.
I am grateful such expertise was available and could be called upon to make balanced/nuanced decisions.
If only that same level of confidence could be placed at the door of our political decision makers….

September 19, 2023 1:30 am

Common sense is truly dead and buried in this era of gaslighting and an agenda entirely composed of screeching hysteria spewed by the chattering classes wholly composed of people that can’t change a flat tire. “Start carving the totems, it’s animism time, Jim”.

Reply to  missoulamike
September 19, 2023 4:08 am

Fortunately, ExxonMobil has transitioned to selling clean and reliable hydrocarbon energy.

September 19, 2023 2:27 am

in case you missed it, read Pat Frank’s paper


Very fine, careful demolition of Oreskes, and a very fine patient dive into the origins of Oreskes Fig 1. Exhaustive. Shows that in these matters you cannot take anything on trust.

In any case there is a logical problem with the suit. It seems to be arguing that if someone (Exxon) at time t makes a prediction, and the event predicted then happened, that shows that they knew at time t that it was going to happen.

Its not a legitimate argument. I predicted, lets say, in 1927 that the market would crash in 1929. Does that mean I knew in 1927 that there would be a crash in 1929? No, I did not know, I just believed it.

I predicted in 2014, after the invasion of Crimea, that Russia would invade Ukraine. They did eventually do that. Did that mean I knew in 2014 that was going to happen? No, I believed it but did not know it. It was not knowable then.

Take the question of insider trading. I have advance insider access to a copy of the latest earnings report, which includes heavy provisions and writeoffs. Then I really do know what the report says, and if I trade on that knowledge can be prosecuted. The key thing is its a fact, it really does say that, and I have knowledge of it.

But if I am on the outside making and trading predictions based on public information I didn’t know. I might have believed the writeoffs were coming, but that is not knowledge. The fact that they did happen didn’t make my previous belief knowledge.

Or take Covid. When I first heard of the outbreak in China I said that a public health crisis was coming towards us. Did I know it was? Of course not.

The problem with the argument is it makes any lucky prediction into knowledge.

Knowledge = justified true belief. All the elements. In the Exxon case, all the Exxon people could have had is belief. They don’t actually seem to have even had that. The warming had not happened, and they had no proof amounting to certainty that it would.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  michel
September 19, 2023 4:13 am

“They don’t actually seem to have even had that. The warming had not happened, and they had no proof amounting to certainty that it would.”

Not to a certainty, but it was a fairly easy guess that temperatures would climb from the 1980’s given our cyclical climate history, where it warmed for a few decades and then it cooled for a few decades and then it warmed for a few decades and then it cooled for a few decades, and at that point you could have a reason to assume that the coming cycle would be a warming for a few decades.

Here is a bastardized instrument-era Hockey Stick chart from the climate change charlatan, Phil Jones, which shows the cyclical nature of the past climate.

An honest chart of this kind would show the 1880’s, and the 1930’s, and 1998, all on the same horizontal line on the chart, as they were all equally warm. That’s what the climate change charlatans wanted to erase from the official temperature record, and were successful. If they didn’t cool the past, then they couldn’t claim that we are experiencing unprecedented warming today because of CO2.

But if we are not experiencing unprecedented warming today, then there is no room for their CO2 scare stories. There is more CO2 in the air today, but no unprecedented temperatures, so there is nothing special about CO2 where it concerns the temperatures.

The Climate Change Alarmist solution was to bastardize the official temperature record as a means of scaring people.

PhilJones-The Trend Repeats.jpg
Tom Abbott
September 19, 2023 3:47 am

From the article: “Gerald North, head of the climatology department at Texas A&M, and a corporate consultant to climate-alarmist Enron (another story), said the same thing in a different way. “There is a good reason for a lack of consensus on the science,” he stated in 1998. “It is simply too early. The problem is difficult, and there are pitifully few ways to test climate models.” The same can be said today.”

Yes, very little has changed since 1998, as far as insights into how CO2 and the atmosphere interact. Exxon did not, in the past, know whether CO2 was a problem or not. Nobody knew. This is still the case today. If someone claims they know, they are lying, or are seriously confused.

Tom Abbott
September 19, 2023 3:54 am

From the article: “After years of turning a profit off of the world’s suffering, states are taking Exxon-Mobil to court. The discovery of their latest lies is adding even more (fossil) fuel to the fire.”

What “suffering”? You are the one lying, not Exxon.

Ron Long
September 19, 2023 4:04 am

My experience serving on Technical Review Committe’s for both CONOCO and Pegasus Gold, is that Senior Management (CEO/President and Vice Presidents) assemble a mixed expertise group that is assigned issues to evaluate and advise the Senior Management. This advice, while in my judgement (biased) was accurate and timely, was considered by Senior Management, who applied filters associated with “maximizing shareholder wealth”. The result was sometimes technical answers did not fit the view of Senior Management as regards their particular responsibility, and the advice was tabled or modified. So, comments and reports from within any company need to be viewed as work in progress, and not as a total corporate identity. So, what did the EXXON Technical Advisory Committee advise and what did Senior Management interpret? Anything else is background noise, and from a company as large as EXXON, there would be a lot of this noise.

Reply to  Ron Long
September 19, 2023 4:43 am

Yes, Ron,
When large annual budgets are approved, detail by detail, it is often a matter of deferring approval for innovative projects when there is heavy expenditure forecast for regular income-producing items.
There is no compulsion to minute full and accurate reasons why a project was not approved for the time being. There is certainly no compulsion to write minutes with lawsuits in mind 20 years down the track.
People, including judges, who have never been involved in billion dollar budget processes will have trouble understanding what I just wrote.
Geoff S

Jim Gorman
Reply to  sherro01
September 19, 2023 8:02 am

I have never been involved with “billion” dollar budgets, but I have been part of tens of millions.

The first thing to do is sort the items into “nice to do” and “must do”. Too many times the projected revenue barely covers the must do items so nice items go by the wayside.

Accountability is one thing that current governments just don’t believe in or practice. If you need more money, it is not a bureaucrat’ s fault, just raise taxes or print more money. One day, probably sooner than later, those in government are going to see the pendulum start to swing against their current practices and the proverbial brown stuff will hit the fan!

David Dibbell
September 19, 2023 4:13 am

Just like ExxonMobil had employees with a range of views about the climate claims, it seems clear to me that NASA did too.


And now the high resolution, near-real-time evidence from space shows plainly why the climate system response to incremental CO2 cannot be isolated for reliable attribution or prediction. Dynamic self-regulation.


Reply to  David Dibbell
September 19, 2023 5:24 pm

Dynamic self-regulation.

The culprit is convective instability. It kicks in at 15C and limits ocean surface temperature to a sustainable limit of 30C:

If climate models had the vertical resolution to physically resolve convective instability and the associated cloud formation, there would be no CO2 demonising.

September 19, 2023 5:21 am

Settled science? I thought how an airplane flies was settled years ago…but I read recently that it is not the simple “air moves faster over the top of a wing and creates a low pressure area”….it is more complex and airplanes can fly upside down and flat wings can produce lift if the leading edge deflects air upward…too complex to get into here but Science is Never Settled.

Reply to  antigtiff
September 19, 2023 7:48 am

For a aircraft wing to develop useful lift (force), there is the absolute physical requirement that the area integral of static pressure over the upper surface of the wing be lower than the area integral of static pressure over the lower surface.

This imbalance of pressure-induced forces can be achieved by the thickness profile and camber of the upper surface relative to the lower surface, as well as by the angel-of-incidence of wings chord line relative to the on-coming wind velocity vector. There is no mystery or “complexity” as to how a flat wing can produce lift at some angle-of-incidence (aka angel-of-attack) into the relative wind.

How an airplane is able to fly inverted was well understood over one hundred years ago:

“. . . Pegoud made the first public demonstration of inverted flight in September of 1913.”

Reply to  ToldYouSo
September 19, 2023 8:21 am

Does your “angel-of- incidence ” have wings? There are physicists who do not entirely agree about what is going on with the aerodynamics of flight….hence….it is not settled.

Reply to  antigtiff
September 19, 2023 9:14 am

I can only gently suggest to you that, instead of relying on “physicists” to describe flight, you actually talk to an aerodynamics expert.

BTW, your question in nonsensical . . .I specifically mentioned “the angel-of-incidence of wings chord line” and “a flat wing can produce lift at some angle-of-incidence (aka angel-of-attack) into the relative wind”. In theory and in practice, a wind does have what is referred to as an angle-of-incidence.

Reply to  ToldYouSo
September 19, 2023 9:37 am

Sorry . . . upon further review, I now see my repeated typos. Obviously, “angel-of-incidence” makes no sense in context and my references should have been in both cases to “angle-of-incidence”.

Reply to  ToldYouSo
September 19, 2023 10:07 am

Since you are a know it all on this subject…I suggest you contact Formula One teams and save them all that money they waste on wind tunnel testing…you can tell them the outcomes w/o that time and money being wasted, no?

Reply to  antigtiff
September 19, 2023 10:36 am

Anyone who goes from model to production without first prototyping is a complete idiot, even if models were perfect.

Reply to  MarkW
September 19, 2023 12:43 pm

Uh, Formula One is always developing their machines – they are never perfect and never finished….always looking for balance between down-force and drag…..rules limit what they can do….the winning team will be allowed less wind tunnel testing the following season to aim for more competition.

Reply to  antigtiff
September 19, 2023 1:29 pm

Haven’t you heard? Wind tunnel testing is so old-school. With modern CFD programs coupled with CAD-based auto-meshing programs, it now rather trivial, and certainly much lower cost than wind-tunnel test time, to get quite accurate computations of subsonic aerodynamic forces (both lift and drag components) for complex shapes such as racing cars with rear spoilers. These programs can even run on higher end home computers, no need for $multimillion supercomputers to get computational results within the matter of hours.

BTW, did you know that many (most?) rear-end spoilers on racing cars are NOT classical-shape airfoils, but instead simple flat plates set at a negative angle-of-incidence to the relative airflow direction at their leading edge so as to produce a downward force?

Seems like the race car engineering teams aren’t really that concerned that “physicists” think the theory of lift being developed by flat plates is “unsettled”.

Reply to  ToldYouSo
September 19, 2023 2:03 pm

I didn’t say that “physicists” think the theory of lift, etc. ” – YOU said that. Here is some more worthless info since you seem to be full of it…the ideal shape of an airplane body is from fluid dynamics…it is whale shaped rather than “cigar” shaped for minimum drag….whales in general seem to have evolved the shape for minimum drag.

Reply to  antigtiff
September 19, 2023 3:31 pm

Posted by antigiff at September 19, 2023 8:21 am, as is clearly seen above:
“There are physicists who do not entirely agree about what is going on with the aerodynamics of flight….hence….it is not settled.”

Also, I discussed both lift and drag forces . . . you now seem to want to deflect the conversation to factors/shapes minimizing drag. Go for it!

FWIW: an “ideal” airplane shape that only minimized drag would not develop any lift, nor would it have moveable control surfaces for directional control and a tail for directional stability . . . thus it would not fly too well or for very long.

J Boles
September 19, 2023 6:28 am

Leftists love the idea of a big, greedy, heartless, corrupt, scheming, corporation as the bad guy to be railed against. But of course leftists also use fossil fuels every day and if you took them away how they would scream in agony!

Reply to  J Boles
September 19, 2023 8:29 am

The right isn’t standing up to the portion of the leftists that are pushing climate change.

Reply to  scvblwxq
September 19, 2023 10:37 am

The right is, but since the media won’t cover it, nobody hears about it.

September 19, 2023 7:22 am

Ever since the IPCC issued its first Assessment Report (AR1) in 1990, everyone “knew” or should have know about the asserted dangers of fossil fuel-originated emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere due to their asserted influence on global warming:

“Since the creation of the IPCC, each Assessment Report has fed directly into international climate policymaking. 
In 1990, the First IPCC Assessment Report (FAR) underlined the importance of climate change as a challenge with global consequences and requiring international cooperation.”

Therefore, as is asserted for Exxon, the government of the United States “knew”. This includes individual leaders and other members in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.

To the extent any entity files lawsuit for an organization “knowing” about fossil fuel-originated CO2 and not changing their practices as a result of such “knowledge”, they should moreover be filing lawsuits against Federal and State governments for having the same publicly-available “information” and yet NOT taking any actions themselves over the period of at least 30 years to significantly curtail their leasing and permitting of oil exploration and production in US-controlled territory, as well as in their own use of refined petroleum products (mainly gasoline, diesel and natural gas fuels) in their land vehicle, marine vessel and aircraft fleets.

What? . . . you think that maybe the US Government as a whole had quietly decided the IPCC warnings were poppycock? How dare you!

Tom Halla
September 19, 2023 7:24 am

A RICO prosecution of the participants in the La Jolla conference should be in order, for extortion and abuse of process.

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 19, 2023 7:58 am

I agree . . . but it ain’t never going to happen.

In their defense of something like a RICO charge, all the lawyers will have to state is:
“Who me? . . . I was just following the money.”

Russell Cook
Reply to  Tom Halla
September 19, 2023 11:14 am

But don’t stop with RICO prosecution. Defamation is defined as knowingly making a false statement with malicious intent or making an accusation with reckless disregard to whether the accusation is true or not. Start on both prosecution fronts with the self-acknowledged creator of the La Jolla conference.http://gelbspanfiles.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/La-Jolla-Oreskes-conceived2.jpg Her ‘merchants of smear’ reason for existencehttp://gelbspanfiles.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Oreskes-reposit-Facs-cornerstone-1024×581.jpg originates not from Exxon documents but instead from an unsolicited, never-implemented memo set proposal submitted to a tiny pilot project public relations campaign. As I detailed in my June 2022 blog post here,http://gelbspanfiles.com/?p=13816 she falsely attributed that rejected set and several never-published newspaper info-mercial ads to that campaign, making assertions of outright disinformation on average of once every minute or so within her discussion of that PR campaign. I believe that her source for the memo set – described by her as “somebody good” that she smirked and laughed about,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzyUEaNQQzM&t=1086s no less – is key to how the entire “crooked skeptic climate scientists” accusation implodes.

Dave Andrews
September 19, 2023 7:52 am

Everyone (not here) thinks the oil companies hid knowledge about climate change so I will remind them once again –

When Hubert Lamb left the UK Met Office to establish the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the University agreed to match the funds that he had already raised from oil company Shell.

Barnes Moore
September 19, 2023 8:13 am

One problem for oil companies is that their executives continue to give lip service to the lies instead of calling them out and talking about the benefits to society of their product. Shell, BP, EM, and others have made statements re: reducing their “carbon” emissions (it would also help if the got the carbon part right by citing co2, not just carbon). Their outright or implied acquiescence to the narrative damages their credibility on all sides. They need to have the courage to stand up, call out the lies and defend themselves before having to go to court.

September 19, 2023 8:19 am

The geological climate of the Earth is a 2.58 million-year ice age named the Quaternary Glaciation in a warmer interglacial period between colder glacial periods. The ice age won’t end until all the natural ice on the Earth melts. Right now about 20% of the land is either permafrost or glaciers so the geological climate of the Earth isn’t going to change anytime soon.

The ‘climate’ the climate change people and the media talk about is only around 30 years. That’s about all they can hope to model so they changed the definition of climate. With climate being only 30 years now it is always changing.

The IPCC selected the period from 1850-1900 to use as the baseline for warming, but that was just after the Little Ice Age which was from 1303-1850 so it was still pretty cold. It still is pretty cold with 4.6 million people dying every year mostly from strokes and heart attacks caused by the cold or cool air we inhale causing our blood vessels to constrict causing our blood pressure to rise. In comparison heat kills around 500,000 people a year.
‘Global, regional and national burden of mortality associated with nonoptimal ambient temperatures from 2000 to 2019: a three-stage modelling study’


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